Rookie Zach Stewart earns victory in White Sox debut
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org August 7, 2011 12:12AM
Right-hander Zach Stewart gave up one run and eight hits in 61/3 innings Saturday. | Genevieve Ross~AP
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:23AM
MINNEAPOLIS — The White Sox can pretend it was the four-game sweep by the New York Yankees that kicked them in the rear and gave them this last-stand mentality.
They can fool themselves into thinking the addition of rookie Zach Stewart to the rotation gave them a fresh arm, new life.
But the real reason for the two-game winning streak against the Minnesota Twins after the 6-1 laugher Saturday?
It’s former disgruntled Sox employee Nick Swisher.
Hours before the game Friday night against the Twins, an unnamed Sox player hijacked the clubhouse sound system and put on Swisher’s new album, “Believe.’’ Sure, the 12-song record by the Yankees outfielder is for charity, but it was just what an uptight, slumping, down-on-their-luck team needed to lighten the mood.
Since Swisher’s crooning filled their clubhouse, the Sox (54-58) are not only 2-0 and keeping pace with Detroit — they’re 61/2 games back in the Central — but they’re actually seeing some life from an all-too-lifeless offense.
Even more impressive, they actually added four runs in the ninth to squeeze the life out of Minnesota late in the game, a practice that has been a rarity this year.
Manager Ozzie Guillen enjoyed that aspect of the victory almost as much as he enjoyed watching Stewart get the win in his debut with his new team.
“Threw the ball very good,’’ Guillen said of Stewart, who was acquired with Jason Frasor in the Edwin Jackson/Mark Teahen trade with the Toronto Blue Jays on July 27. “To me, to everyone, that’s very important. Throw strikes, attack the strike zone very well. He has a few pitches, got big outs. It seems like there was a lot of courage in there. It seemed like he liked to be out there throwing the ball. So far, good. He was facing a pretty good ballclub and shut it down pretty well.’’
Stewart went 61/3 innings, allowing one run and eight hits, walking one and fanning two. Not overpowering numbers, but overpowering wasn’t the plan. The rookie has a pitch-to-contact attitude, so mission accomplished.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much my usual game plan, just to go out and throw strikes and attack the zone and get them out,’’ Stewart said.
A game plan that catcher A.J. Pierzynski could appreciate.
“Makes my job a lot better when they’re throwing strikes, as opposed to being all over the place,’’ Pierzynski said. “That was the thing he said when I talked to him before the game. He tries to spot the ball well. He’s got a good slider and used it and mixed up his pitches, and he’s got a good sinker when he throws it.’’
So what’s next for Stewart?
According to Guillen, he earned the right to stick on the roster and likely get another start, as the Sox will tinker with the six-man rotation again.
The Sox have some days off coming up, so Stewart could be used in the bullpen for that part of the schedule, much like Philip Humber was used before Jackson was traded and the Sox were juggling six starters.
“It really impressed me because every time you’re going to come to a new town, a new setting, you can be a little bit anxious,’’ Guillen said of Stewart. “He seemed pretty calm and very normal, like he was there before. He has a pretty good makeup.’’
As for the Swisher album, that’s staying with the team, waiting for the next opportunity to serenade the eardrums.
With only 50 games left and serious ground to make up, the Sox need something to “Believe’’ in.